See all blog posts ↑

Give Back to Open Source

Katie Richard on

There is more to open source software than it being free.

The use of open source products has become common practice in much of the tech sector, especially among startups.

At Wiredcraft we use a lot of open source tools. To name a few we use Hackpad, Python, Ansible, React.js, etc.

But OSS can’t grow if there aren’t developers willing to contribute to the open source community, and after long days of coding at work the idea of fixing bugs for free looks less appealing. We’ll explore some concerns and benefits of encouraging your employees to work on OSS at work.

The Concerns

Illustrations of concerns about Open Source Software

Not everyone is enamored with open source projects. Here are a few concerns voiced about employees using company time to work on open source projects.

  1. Intellectual Property (IP) Concerns. People are concerned that unique features might be sought out and taken by your competitors.
  2. People (clients and future employers) don’t actually care about open source contributions.
  3. Waste of companies time and resources to allow employees to participate in open source projects.
  4. It’s not really a on-the-job training tool. They think that working on other projects isn’t as beneficial as working on your own products.
  5. Where is the profit in working on open source Projects?

Benefits

Here is what your employees/company gains by promoting work on open source software.

  • You staff becomes knowledgable about new tools. It isn’t worth your companies time to try a whole new project with a new set of technology, but it is worth allowing your staff to experiment with new tools and methods. They can gain some experience and do the legwork to find out if a new tool is worth using. This can lead to your staff finding a library that works for you like we did with React.js.
  • Developers get to know your employee as they contribute to projects and develop relationships with the community. Your employee will naturally have information about your company on their profile or in their conversations; leading to potential recruitment of employees or clients for your company.
  • Only you care about your IP. Other companies don’t waste time looking to open source for their feature innovation. It’s not good business.
  • It’s not all about the money. In open source you don’t have to worry about fulfilling every unique feature request or crashes, developers can just implement on their own.
  • Employees that contribute to open source are often committed, self-empowered, can learn on their own, and build leadership qualities and characteristics. This means they are developing skills that you most likely want to have in your managers anyway - you can now promote from within.
  • Open Source is good PR for your company and it demonstrates commitment and investment in mutual benefits and not just self interest. Some clients might not care, but others will.
  • Diversity and creativity stop burnout.
  • More free open source products that you can implement and use at your company.

Things to know about Open Source

Now you’ve decided that you want to either start an open source project at your company or allow your employees some time to do it on your dime, here are some tips to get you started.

  • Speak with lawyer about licensing your open source project. You can also check the resources provided by Open Source Initiative on licenses & standards
  • Promote your project on a few OSS mailing lists.
  • Check for signs of healthy projects
  • Set up guidelines for your employees contributing to open source. (ie. How many hours a week can they contribute to open source. Documenting their work on open source).

Finding open source contributions

Even if you can’t work on OSS at work, you can still receive the same benefits by contributing to OSS.

Here are some great resources to get started to open source.

Give back to the OSS community and start coding now: